Did you hear that Boston was without clean water for a few days? It’s hardly as disastrous as the oil spill in the Gulf, but, boy, it really makes you realize how lucky we are to: a) have water; b) have clean water; and c) have it enter our homes through actual pipes in the walls, not holes in our basements.
The short version of the story is that there was a rupture in the 10-foot-wide water pipe that carries clean water from the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts to the Boston area. The leak, which occurred about a mile from our house, cut off the eastward flow at Weston, leaving all of Boston, Waltham, and 27 other cities and towns without clean water (but not Cambridge, which has its own water supply). Water was rerouted from several other area reservoirs, but a percentage of that water was untreated and potentially unsafe, so a boil order was issued mid-day on Saturday to minimize any public health implications from possible bacterial contamination. The order was lifted today, Tuesday, after the pipe was repaired and water safety testing was completed.
So, two and a half days without clean water. No big deal, right? Just boil it. Buy a few jugs of spring water (if you can find any on the empty shelves). Except, do you have any idea how much water one uses on a daily basis? Water that just happens to be mostly free of bacteria and parasites and random floating debris and is delivered promptly to multiple faucets in convenient locations inside one’s home? It’s a lot. Trust me. Because it’s not just drinking water that needs to be clean, but also water to wash your hands, water to wash your food, water to cook the food, water to wash the dishes after you eat the food, water to brush your teeth after you eat the food. Point is, it ends up being a lot of water. And if you’re not prepared, you might find yourself with nothing to drink but scalding hot water like I did on Saturday night when we got home to the news and an empty refrigerator and a suddenly unquenchable thirst. (Okay, fine, I dumped a tray of ice cubes into the recently boiled water. Why do you always have to ruin my dramatic stories?)
While I can’t deny the inconvenience of the boil order, I guess it wasn’t that bad all in all. I taped off the refrigerator’s water dispenser and kept jugs of boiled water in the fridge as well as some bottles of spring water that Husband scored out in Framingham. We used these for drinking and food prep. I covered the two bathroom faucets with a dishtowel rubber-banded over them to keep us (okay, me) from turning them on out of sheer mindless habit. Next to each sink was a pitcher of boiled and cooled water for hand-washing and tooth-brushing, which I had to keep a close eye on lest the children cross-contaminate it with something far worse than what it originally contained. I also had to micro-manage the specifics of hand-washing since my kids seem to like to work the soap into a thick and sickening paste on their hands, which would take an entire pot of water to wash off, and then they start rubbing their hands together again, which whips the remaining soap molecules into another hopeful lather, and for god’s sakes, kids, stop rubbing your hands together when I’m rinsing. I’ll be boiling water all day.
We kept the kitchen sink open for pot-filling and the dish-sterilization procedure that involved soaking the dishes in a dilute bleach solution in batches and then letting them air dry. I was not fond of this additional dishwashing step. Not at all. If the boil order had continued for another week, I think we’d be looking at the elimination of this step, replaced, perhaps, by preventative post-dinner shots of vodka.
But, luckily, the water situation was just temporary. Now I’m looking at my faucets in a whole new light. Oh, who am I kidding, no I’m not. I’m back to taking refreshing, potable water for granted again just like I did during the good old days of last week. It took all of 10 seconds after the boil order was lifted and I finished flushing the bad water out of our pipes in what, to an uninformed observer, must have looked like symbolically wasteful fashion. The moral of this story is: MWRA, please take good care of our water supply!